Labour’s Gordon Nardell has attempted to distance himself from his party’s own disciplinary processes for investigating anti-Jewish racism – despite having been brought in to oversee investigations himself.
Speaking at the Cities of London and Westminster hustings for the Jewish community, the QC said political parties should improve the way they addressed complaints relating to racism and antisemitism by “sharing best practice” with each other.
But in an attempt to defend Mr Corbyn from allegations of antisemitism, he added: “If I thought Jeremy Corbyn had an antisemitic bone in his body I would not be in this party and I would not be one of his candidates.”
Asked by the JC to defend his own record working for Labour, in which hundreds of complaints relating to anti-Jewish racism were left either unresolved or not investigated at all, Mr Nardell said: “We have got to stop this bidding war between the parties – our procedures are better than yours.
“The way to deal with these questions [including complaints against the Tory Party over Islamophobia] is by the parties doing this together, sharing best practice.”
The Labour candidate’s response – which came on the same day a Sunday Times report detailed countless examples of antisemitism from Labour members - was met with derision by Liberal Democrat candidate Chuka Umunna, who recalled his own experiences of Labour’s approach to complaints.
Mr Umunna called for the implementation of a complaints process that was “genuinely independent” and where no one was dictated to by “the politics of the people involved.”
He added: “Too often in the Labour Party people’s adoration for the cult around the leader stopped the party dealing with that issue because they refused to accept the criticisms were genuine.
“They were described as smears – which of course is absolutely nonsense.”
Mr Nardell – who resigned from his role as general counsel for Labour in July with a backlog of 1,000 antisemitism allegations and only 15 people having been expelled – said his “proudest moment” in the job was attending the Committee For Standards in Public Life with party chair Ian Lavery, for cross party talks on solving the intimidation suffered by candidates in the 2017 election.
“Let’s deal with this issue on a cross party basis,” he said about continued problems for the mainstream parties over racism complaints.
Earlier Mr Nardell said he had experienced antisemitism “not within the Labour Party itself” but “online in communities that call themselves left wingers.”
He said he had witnessed “grotesque examples” of racism within Labour, pointing to a Yorkshire Regional Labour Party conference. “One of the trade unions brought a comedian – the comedian told a racist joke,” he said.
“When I approached the union in question he said ‘if you don’t like it leave’. So I have called racism out.”
Sunday evening’s hustings, at a central London hotel, also featured Conservative Nicky Aitken and the Green Party candidate Zack Polanski. It was chaired by Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl.
Ms Aitken insisted she had not “witnessed any antisemitism in my own party” although she added: “I’m not saying it hasn’t happened.” She then claimed the she had sounded out a group of Bangladeshi supporters over Islamophobia allegations.
“They said they hadn’t,” she claimed. But Ms Aitken said they also confirmed to her that “members were believed” if they reported Islamophobia cases to the Tory Party, in contrast to antisemitism allegations reported to Labour.
Mr Polankski said that, having appeared on Julia-Harley Brewer’s talkRadio show, “within 20 minutes there were comments calling me a ‘yid’.”
He clashed over the issue of rough sleeping in the constituency after Ms Aitken, the Westminster Council leader, appeared to suggest the best solution to the issue was to recognise that more than half of them were “from overseas” and that everything should be done to encourage them to go back to their places of origin.
She referred to the recent case of a man found dead at Westminster tube station – revealing that he had been a Portuguese man who was a convicted child sex offender.
Mr Polanski accused the Tory candidate of “dog-whistle racism politics”, but Mrs Aiken suggested she was merely speaking the facts.